Suspected early morning arson leaves Armenian church badly damaged

Police are investigating a suspected arson that took place early Thursday morning at an Armenian church in San Francisco’s Laurel Heights neighborhood.

Firefighters initially responded to the blaze just after 4 a.m. at St. Gregory The Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church at 51 Commonwealth Ave., police said.

Although firefighters were able to eventually extinguish the fire, the building sustained extensive damage, according to San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Lt. Jonathan Baxter. No one was injured as a result of the fire, he said.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin called the suspected arson an “outrage.”

“The Armenian community of San Francisco woke up to an arson at their church. There is no room for this cowardly, hateful, criminal conduct in San Francisco. We stand with the Armenian community against hate,” he said.

If proved to be arson, it would be the second attack on an Armenian establishment in San Francisco in the past two months. On July 24, a group of suspects were observed on surveillance video breaking into the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan Armenian School, located at 825 Brotherhood Way, vandalizing the school’s walls with graffiti that conveyed anti-Armenian messages.

Investigators have classified the vandalism as a hate crime and the suspects in that case remain at large, police said.

Anyone with information about Thursday’s early morning fire or about the vandalism case in July is asked to contact police’s 24-hour anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or to text a tip to TIP411 with “SFPD” at the beginning of the message.

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